The following is an excerpt from Matt Taibbi’s new book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That is Breaking America. He explores how in our cash-strapped country, everything is up for sale at rock-bottom prices — including parking meters — including in our very own city:
“I was in a meeting where a bunch of American investment bankers were trying to sell us the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” he said. “They even had a slide show. They were showing these Arabs what a nice highway we had for sale, what the toll booths looked like . . .”
I dropped my fork. “The Pennsylvania Turnpike is for sale?”
He nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “We didn’t do the deal, though. But, you know, there are some other deals that have gotten done. Or didn’t you know about this?”
As it turns out, the Pennsylvania Turnpike deal almost went through, only to be killed by the state legislature, but there were others just like it that did go through, most notably the sale of all the parking meters in Chicago to a consortium that included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, from the United Arab Emirates.
There were others: A toll highway in Indiana. The Chicago Skyway. A stretch of highway in Florida. Parking meters in Nashville, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and other cities. A port in Virginia. And a whole bevy of Californian public infrastructure projects, all either already leased or set to be leased for fifty or seventy-five years or more in exchange for one-off lump sum payments of a few billion bucks at best, usually just to help patch a hole or two in a single budget year.
The chapter also goes into some detail on the Chicago parking meter deal. You can read more here at Rolling Stone.